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Manifesto Watch...!

With the General Election just around the corner, RCA Regeneration has assessed the three parties’ key messages for the planning and house building industry.

For complete impartiality, the manifestos are set out in alphabetical order; after all planning decisions are meant to be apolitical!

Conservatives:

So far the Conservative manifesto has been kept firmly under wraps.  However, a recent press article outlined 11 pledges by the Conservative Party.  Despite plenty of column inches this year on the current housing crisis, no reference is made within the 11 pledges to increase house building.   

While the above may be somewhat of a surprise, there is a key issue to remember which is that the Government has only just finished consulting on their Housing White Paper “Fixing our broken housing market”. 

Given how recently the white paper was published, it is a fair assumption to say that the document provides a clear indication of the Conservative Party’s ambitions for the planning and house building industry.  As such, it’s no real surprise to see a lack of reference to house building within the recent 11 pledges.  

Those with a keen eye on social media may have already spotted that RCA Regeneration has compiled a detailed response to the White Paper. 

This White Paper details a series of potential changes to the planning system, including the introduction of a housing delivery test to be undertaken by Local Planning Authorities.  Furthermore, the paper introduces potential changes to the NPPF and giving Councils greater flexibility to bring forward plans in a quicker manner.  

Due to the level of information contained within the White Paper, it would be seismic change of direction for the Conservative Party to adopt an entirely different approach.  However, there is one note of caution.  As late as 20th March, the Prime Minister re-iterated her position that there wasn’t going to be an early general election; a position that drastically changed on 18th April. 

Liberal Democrats:

The Liberal Democrats have set an ambitious target of increasing the rate of house building to 300,000 year by 2022.  To do this, the Party propose a number of actions.  This includes the creation of ‘at least’ 10 new Garden Cities containing thousands of zero carbon homes.  Alongside this, the Party will establish a new government-backed British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank to help attract finance for major housing building projects.

However, the house building target is not entirely supportive for the development industry.  The manifesto is seeking the abolition of the exemption of smaller housing developments.  Furthermore, the Party promises to “…strengthen the hand of local government to prevent large developers reneging on their commitments”.  Could this be the end of viability arguments?

A final promise, and one that could be a worrying issue, is the proposed introduction of “Community Right of Appeal”.  This would be in cases where planning decisions go against an approved plan.  However, as we all know, development proposals rarely conform to every policy within a Development Plan.  As such, the decision taker is required to carefully balance the proposal against all key policies and material considerations.  Introducing such an appeal process makes the 300,000 homes per annum seem like a very optimistic target!

For further information on the Liberal Democrats manifesto, please see the link below:

http://www.libdems.org.uk/families

Labour:

The Labour Party manifesto points the finger at the previous two Governments for creating an industry where housebuilding has fallen to its lowest levels since the 1920s.  To tackle this, the Labour Party pledges to be building “…at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year…” by the end of the next Parliament.  Priority will be given to brownfield sites in order to protect the green belt.  To deliver the housing target, the manifesto states that the building of new homes will be a priority of the National Transformation Fund. 

In order to deliver this, the manifesto proposes to establish a Department for Housing.  The ministry will be tasked with “…improving the number, standards and affordability of homes” with a reformed HCA becoming the housing delivery body. 

From RCA Regeneration’s perspective, the creation of a Department for Housing is a bold step forward.  Traditionally, the Housing and Planning minister is a junior position within the Department for Communities and Local Government.  The creation of a new department could see Planning and Housing getting a seat at Cabinet, placing the housing crisis at the centre of a Labour Government’s decision making process. 

A final note on wider planning issues, the Labour manifesto highlights that they would “…properly resource and bolster planning authorities with fuller powers to put people and communities at the heart of planning”.  No detail accompanies this statement so it is difficult to ascertain whether this would mean greater funding for Neighbourhood Development Plans and Orders.  Alternatively, could local objection carry greater weight in the decision making process or the potential introduction of a dreaded third party right of appeal?  

For further information on the Labour Party manifesto, please see link below:

http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/Images/manifesto-2017/Labour%20Manifesto%202017.pdf

Philip Deeley

Principal Planner

 

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